It’s almost as if they evolved from the magical dust of silver and steel, candle wick trimmers have made their presence felt from early 1200s to 1500s. While we still have people around Northern Europe scavenging the landscape for Georgian English sterling silver candle wick trimmers and snuffers – yes that is what they were called – some antique sellers are making a quick buck by adding it to their diverse silver collection.
The question is why did it become necessary for a wick trimmer to be invented? Candles were the main source for illumination before electricity became common, and it was soon found that the ideal length of the wick should be a quarter-of-an-inch. To maintain this length scissor-like implements were used. The main feature or highlight of this design is the boxy-platter that collects the snipped wick. The wick-trimmer had three feet to support it so that hot wicks and wax would be kept on the blades. This was to ensure that no hot wax could drip down on any surface after the trimming was done and of course to protect the person using the instrument.
In fact trimmers were used from the mid-15th century to promote slower, steady burning, and also to prevent smoking. Indeed the earlier wicks demanded frequent trims; moreover if you look at the earlier wick-trimmer, they featured ornamental styles and were very lavish. Bet the rich folks had ones made in gold and silver. With careful practice, despite the flat blades, wick trimming could be done without extinguishing the flame. Perhaps they should use this as a challenge in Game of Thrones – replace the trial by combat versus trial by trimming a wick!
It wasn’t until the early 20th Century that the wick-trimmer took on a newer look. The modern approach in fact changed their entire design from flat scissors to ones that are more vertical to hold. This is probably because the kind of candles we started using, evolved. Fancy candles these days come in anything – long jars, glasses, bottles, flat plates … anything that can hold wax! Essentially, a flat scissor makes it difficult to trim the wick; hence the tall shape of the trimmers is the best evolution in design! Check out WickWizard for the next-gen in wick trimmers.
Bonus: What is a Wick Trimmer